To start with I need to thank the Hero Miles program at Fisher House http://www.fisherhouse.org/programs/hero-miles/ for providing my air fare for this trip to the Tampa VA Hospital. Really - visit their site & consider donating any frequent flyer miles that you can. Thanks are also due to the contributors who saw to it that my ground transportation in Tampa & to & from the airport locally were covered.
It was another educational experience. The stent that had been placed in my esophagus had "migrated." It was in my stomach! According to the doctors this is absolutely unheard of - making me a unique anomaly. So they removed it. Consulting multiple opinions, they decided that it would not be advisable to place another due to the unheard of risk of it migrating like the first one compounded by the complications of my travel requirements. It was also decided to not do a PET scan to assess the current stage of the cancer since that would be an otherwise unnecessary dose of radiation. Weird - to me, at least - the radiation is considered unnecessary (and potentially carcinogenic) only if it is not part of the "therapy" protocol of chemo, radiation & surgery (poison, burn & cut). Ultimately it was agreed that a second endoscopy to dilate the passage through the tumor would be done and before that we would test to see if I could tolerate a do-it-yourself dilation procedure so I could maintain better eating functionality at home without so much medical assistance. The device is a length of silicon about the length of my arm. It is tapered from a tip smaller than the diameter of a pencil to somewhat larger than the diameter of a penny. Surgical jelly is applied to the first two inches of length for lubrication. You sit upright and throw your head back like a baby bird waiting for mama to stuff a worm down your throat and swallow the silicone like a sword swallower, the taper gradually easing the tumor open. The silicone is marked for length and you hold it at the required mark - when you've swallowed to the mark you are dilated. I was able to do four of these in increasing diameter to assure the doctors it would be an applicable procedure and to determine the correct size for the situation. They then ordered that size & one smaller to be shipped to me here and I will be swallowing them probably twice a week while I continue with my alternative protocols in hope of shrinking & ultimately eliminating the tumor / cancer.
I flew back home Friday and have had no real trouble eating since then - though I still avoid some textures of food altogether. It is a year ago today that I was originally admitted to the VA Hospital & diagnosed. It would be nice if I was cancer-free well before the next anniversary. Time will tell.
Thanks to the Social Worker from the Tampa VA Hospital coordinating with the Hero Miles program I will soon be traveling to Tampa again to find out what went haywire with the stent in my tumor.
You can learn about the Hero Miles program here: http://www.fisherhouse.org/programs/hero-miles/
They accept donated frequent flyer miles and use them to fund travel for wounded, injured or ill veterans. Please consider donating to them. It's a great idea.
On the other hand, each airport is 20 miles one way from either my house or the VA hospital which amounts to $80 - $100 dollars in taxi & shuttle fares, so I'm still looking for help with that.
Again, I would like to thank everyone who has been kind enough to donate previously. It's not only been helpful financially but it has been emotionally & psychologically supportive as well.
Please share with your email contacts or Facebook friends or your LinkedIn contacts.
Well, so much for channeling my "Inner Procrastinator""¦ I've been meaning to post an update for a while, but it's pretty easy to stay way too busy.
Good News: In the month since I last posted, my cough has cleared up and when I do need to clear some phlegm, it is only occasionally tinged with pink. This leads me to hope that the meds have halted or reversed the spread of the cancer into my lungs.
The marketing training program that I wanted to join offered a monthly payment alternative just before the subscription deadline so I am participating in that. It's only been 3 classes, all very basic, so nothing has been learned that has led to any earnings yet. However, all in due time.
It has been 7 weeks today since the stent was placed in my esophagus. I have gained back about half the weight I had lost and, frankly, another 5 - 7 lbs would leave me lighter than before, but right at the top of my recommended BMI range. After an extended period of pureed food only, eating solid foods has been a real and enjoyable reprieve.
The Not So Great News: For reasons I haven't yet figured out, something went awry at the end of week 4. Gradually my swallowing capability has been compromised again. Although the stent is permanent, rigid and firmly anchored in place, it only has a diameter of 22mm - which is the same size as a nickel. I don't know for sure if it is strong enough to maintain its diameter under pressure from additional tumor growth. On the other hand, I don't know what sort of obstacle it would present if the meds caused the tumor to shrink. There might be an overall increase in the opening of the esophageal passage but then the stent could contribute to blockage by being off-center or whatever - not an entirely clear picture.
International long distance means I am only communicating with the doctors via the Veterans Affairs Secure Messaging System and all they have said is schedule an appointment for an XRay and Endoscopy. That would be swell if I was living in the Tampa area, but is much easier said than done when I'm 1300 plus miles away.
So once again, I'd like to express my gratitude for the generous contributions & help I've received previously. But at this point I'm in need of air fare to make another doctors' visit and am asking the help of anyone who has the means to contribute so I can get that visit accomplished. I might even find out that I've made better progress than I'd imagined and maybe that stent will come out and the tumor continue to shrink. I can only hope.
Once again, please share with your email contacts or Facebook friends or your LinkedIn contacts - since there's telling who may be looking for a "Pay It Forward" opportunity and be willing to help.
The pressure is on! While I feel like things are improving on the health front - at least I'm eating better & can take my meds - I still have a challenge to meet terms of earnings capability. I have a website and have written a decent eBook but lost focus when it comes to effective marketing - everything changes so fast you can't quite keep up with what's working, let alone get ahead of the curve. There is a special pricing offer available only until February 14th for an online training program that would be the clear ticket to getting me up to speed in the current internet marketing environment if only I had the $600 to enroll. It's a one time discount, so it's now or never. I am thankful for the support and contributions I've received so far and have hopes that I can participate in this training with its potential to be the "game-changer" in terms of helping me improve my financial health.
Again I feel the need to express my gratitude for the generous support I've received so far. The doctors in Tampa placed a stent in my esophagus and that has given me back about 85% of a normal swallowing function. I still have to be careful what I eat & how fast I eat it but I am grateful to be off the liquid diet for now. They informed me that the cancer had spread into my lungs and that it would continue to spread "without treatment." Of course they're referring to chemo, radiation & all that. As if that's the only treatment. I am confident that the new protocol I am using, now that I can swallow the meds, will bring a major change in this condition. If I can keep paying the way and maybe start paying down what I owe, things should come out pretty well eventually.
Once again my thanks & appreciation go to those who have offered me their support. The financial support I've received has allowed me to book a flight to visit the VA Hospital in Tampa. It has been increasingly difficult for me to eat & sometimes even drink. They will either place a stent to try to keep the esophagus open wider or maybe a feeding tube or maybe both. This shouldn't be a long stay but I won't know until I get the doctors' opinion.
For those folks who know me well, you're aware of the fight with cancer that I've taken on. For those who don't know me, my name is Jim. I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer with a malignant tumor at the gastro-esophageal junction (where the esophagus joins the stomach) in May of 2012. Since the mainstream protocol ends with a surgery that removes the entire esophagus and then stretches your stomach to attach at your Adam's Apple - leaving you with lifelong Acid Reflux & its attendant prescription drugs and their inevitable side effects - I opted to take a pass on all that & pursue alternative therapies.
Since I have no medical insurance and only my fixed Social Security income, I have had to either pursue the less costly therapies or use only the most effective portions of protocols that I couldn't fund at full scale. Of course not everything works for everyone, so there's necessarily been some trial and error and changes in what I'm working with. While I have not achieved my ultimate goal of complete remission, I believe I am on the right track. However, I have exhausted my savings and piled up a significant amount of debt. I hope that with your help and generosity I will be able to keep on healing myself and not have to worry about whether I can pay my bills and my rent. My goal is to be able to make all my payments and eventually pay down my debt. Thank you all so much for your support and healing wishes.